A green star on the horizon

BY DAN BULLEY Special to CONTRACTOR Green building means a lot of things to different people. To those of us in the construction industry, it means healthy, money-saving, environmentally friendly buildings. The Mechanical Contractors Association of Chicago has invested heavily in this arena, because a buildings mechanical system affects each one of those areas. MCA Chicago sees green building not

BY DAN BULLEY Special to CONTRACTOR

Green building means a lot of things to different people. To those of us in the construction industry, it means healthy, money-saving, environmentally friendly buildings. The Mechanical Contractors Association of Chicago has invested heavily in this arena, because a building’s mechanical system affects each one of those areas.

MCA Chicago sees green building not only as an ideal we should follow, but also as an enterprise that we must actively study and pursue. Green building has long been a shining star on the horizon, and it is getting brighter every day. We need to keep our eyes on it so it can guide our path.

By following that star, we are being both selfish and altruistic. A better product is good for our industry, so it makes sense for us to make sure our members are the best practitioners of their craft. That means they must be experts in green building. That’s the selfish part! Of course, we are also pursuing and promoting green building for the common good.

Green building has something for everyone. Most people are aware of the attraction to environmentalists, and we are now seeing a strong investment from corporate America. There are also other sides to this movement. Green building is natural to fiscal conservatives as it is all about saving our resources now so we have them later when needed. For those who are conscious of national security, it helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

For people of faith, there is the issue of stewardship. We have a responsibility to use our knowledge and skills for the betterment of society. Finally, there is the appeal to those with creative minds: it is fascinating to learn about new ideas that can make buildings healthier and less expensive to operate.

Much of our motivation comes from the desire to meet all of those fine objectives. A pretty daunting task! But we are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

We have a committee on green building that sets and accomplishes green building objectives. It includes Kathy McCauley, who runs McCauley Mechanical and has LEED Professional Accreditation; Selena Worster of Mechanical Inc., who is chairperson of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Chicago Chapter’s State and Local Government Committee; Tom Kelleher of AMS Mechanical, a leader in the Illinois ASHRAE Chapter; and Chuck Funke of Soderlund Brothers, who represents the service side of the business. I currently serve as secretary of the Chicago Chapter of the USGBC and chair the Volunteer Committee for Greenbuild 2007. I’ve also been asked to serve on the MCAA/UA Joint Task Force on Green Building, MCAA Emerging Trends Committee, and the Environmental Sustainability Project Team in my hometown of Naperville, Ill.

As you can see, we are investing time and personnel in green building – and dollars, too. Our budget for green building related activities grows every year. We attend conferences, provide educational opportunities, and we are even greening our own operation. We have closed on a building in Burr Ridge, Ill., and it will have at least a Silver LEED rating. The shell of the building is already constructed but we have hired a green architect for the build-out.

Our green building directives don’t stop with our contractors. MCA represents contractors who have labor agreements with the Pipefitter’s Union, and we consider the United Association and Local 597, led by Business Manager James Buchanan, to be our partners. The most energy-efficient and healthy way to condition a building space is with hydronics. This is a perfect match for us in the piping industry. Case in point: the Alberici building in St. Louis has been called the “greenest” building in America. Take a look at it and you will see a lot of piping! We believe that hydronic heating and cooling will be the ultimate endgame for true green building.

Green building will generate a lot of work. Whether you are a government entity or a private developer, you shouldn’t even think of building without hiring a green-savvy architect. We want to make sure that our members are chosen for this work. We are also looking at the maintenance side. A lot of people who are talking about building green haven’t thought about maintaining green. Our members also have the best-trained service technicians for maintaining a building’s mechanical systems. We are making sure they will understand the latest filter and control systems. Their client’s green buildings need to stay green!

MCA Chicago has been educating its members in green building for about three years now and we will continue to do so. That star on the horizon keeps getting brighter, and we are confident that none of our members will be left in the dark.

Dan Bulley is senior vice president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Chicago. He can be reached at 312/384-1220.